Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mentor Text Author Study: Patricia Polacco

By Keila V. Dawson

Author Patricia Polacco grew up listening to family stories in front of a fireplace. Firetalking is the term her Ukrainian grandmother used to describe these fireside chats.  Once her brother asked their babushka, “Buddy, is that a true story?” She replied, “Of course it’s true…but it may not have happened.” 

Polacco has written over 100 books. Many are based on stories she heard growing up. Most are realistic fiction about her family history, friends, school, and life experiences. Polacco is able to show how connected we are whether the topic she explores is familiar or complex. Her characters are both adults and children and her writing takes us along on their emotional journey. Through her storytelling and illustrations, readers travel to different countries and regions within the United States. They visit with diverse groups of people whose ethnic origin, religious practices and personal history may be dramatically different from their own. Yet through these smaller slice of life stories children are able to explore how they fit into a much larger world. They discover humanity.

The following elements of realistic fiction are found in Patricia Polacco stories:

Growing up: school, self-discovery: Thank you, Mr. Falker, The Junkyard Wonders, An A from Miss Keller

Friendship and facing fears: Emma Kate, Thunder Cake, Mr.Wayne’s Masterpiece

Moral dilemmas in society: Mr. Lincoln’s Way, Pink and Say, Chicken Sunday


Survival & Resilience: Mermaid’s PurseTucky Jo and Little Heart, I Can Hear the Sun


Illness & Death: The Lemonade Club, Because of Thursday, Mrs.Katz and Tush


Polacco struggled learning to read and write in school. She was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 14. But she was born a creative soul. From a young age she nurtured that creativity and lived a creative life. In her early adult years she worked for museums restoring ancient icons before she became a children’s author -illustrator at the age of 41. Her life story and books are inspirational. Polacco’s stories are true and may not have happened, but for readers young and old, they are timeless. 

What realistic fiction stories resonate with you?


  1. Polacco has long been a favorite in our house. I often wonder whether, if she was trying to get started as a children's writer today, she would be able to sell such long-format books. In any case, I'm glad she still is!!

    1. Me too Anna. My dream is to sit at her fireplace and listen to her spin a tale!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Keila. Patricia Polacco is an inspiration! All students and teachers should read, Thank you, Mr. Falker. I just requested a few of the above from my library. I can't believe there are Polacco books I hadn't heard about!

    1. Welcome! She has written so many it was hard to choose. :)

  3. This is a great post, Patricia is an inspiring author!

  4. This is a wonderful post - I always find it so helpful to concentrate on one author & read tons by her or him. Patricia is a great author/illustrator to feature for this. Thank you!

  5. The way that there are not very many free courses of any worth accessible in the universities now an understudy is investing time and cash for a course and thusly needs an arrival on speculation.see more